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“I keep surpassing my own expectations. I have had some balancing to do with my left and right leg. I still have a little bit of an imbalance there but I think I am as close to peak as I could be.”

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/TDW Sport




19.09.2015 @ 21:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few months ago, few would have expected Taylor Phinney to be at the start of his home World Championships in Richmond. After a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening leg fracture, he now will now line up in all three events at what he describes as close to his peak condition.


One year ago Taylor Phinney seemed to be on track to a great summer that included a debut at the Tour de France. The strong American had just taken a remarkable solo win in a stage of the Tour of California and won his national time trial championships and seemed to be close to peak shape.


That’s when his career almost came to an abrupt end. A bad crash in his national championships road race left him with a broken leg and for some time it was uncertain whether he would ever return to the professional scene.


Fast forward 16 months and Phinney is now ready for a busy week at his home World Championships. After a remarkable comeback in the Tour of Utah where he nearly won the first stage, he opened his account much earlier than anyone had expected in his home race USA Pro Challenge. He crossed the Atlantic to fine-tune his condition at the Tour of Britain and after leaving the race early to recover for Worlds, he did enough to convince the BMC management to select him for the team time trial and the national federation to select him for both the time trial and the road race.


“I was definitely surprised,” he told a few media including CyclingQuotes in Richmond. “The Tour of Utah was my first race back and it went much better than expected. I couldn’t get too far ahead of myself.


“I took my time. I probably could have come back sooner but I wouldn’t have had the same kind of level. It’s been a year, a year and a half since the accident. That’s a pretty long time. I felt like I was conservative with most of my recovery and conservative also when it came to coming back to racing. I came back at races that suited the style of racing that I needed. Now I am here.”


The comeback has been so good that he actually feels close to being in peak shape.


“I am definitely stronger,” he said. “I keep surpassing my own expectations. I have had some balancing to do with my left and right leg. I still have a little bit of an imbalance there but I think I am as close to peak as I could be.”


However, Phinney knows that he can’t get too far ahead when it comes to his comeback at the highest level. Apart from winning the team time trial, he has modest ambitions in the two races with the national team.


“We want to win the TTT,” he said. “The baseline goal for the time trial is to finish in the top 10 to qualify a spot for Rio next year. I am on a really good day I couldn’t put anything past myself. The road race is another animal. I think it is realistic for the US to win a medal. That would be the ideal scenario.


The biggest goal in my horizon is the Olympics. That is what I have been looking forward to this whole time. I started racing in the second half of the season as preparation for next year and it has gone a lot better than I anticipated for a variety of reasons, a lot of them mental. To be in Richmond and do all three races is a huge bonus and something I wasn’t expecting. I try to hang out here and enjoy the energy and the vibe. At the same time it is stressful and nervous. It is the world championships.”


For Phinney, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have the Worlds in his home country.


“It hasn’t been in America in 30 years,” he said. “It feels like it happens all the time. With the energy we have here in Richmond it feels like it is every year that the race happens here in the US which is pretty cool. American cycling fans are really excited and when they are excited, I am excited. That energy will culminate on Sunday during the road race. It will be crazy. I try not to think too much about that now.


“I have been here since Monday. The worst days are behind us when it comes to nervousness and stress. When you sit in a hotel room and try to rest, that is the worst part. When the race starts, then you’ll just do your job. I am looking forward to getting the team time trial and the time trial out of the way. I try to enjoy them as they happen.


“I think it’s going to be cool to see what kind of a boost the crowd can give me. Once we are in the race, it is just going to happen. The crowd can give you a little bit extra. I have noticed that every time in the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado especially. I felt it a lot this year, especially in the first stage which I won.”


Phinney may have done a bit of racing but he is still not used to doing very long races.


“I am not really sure of the distance,” he admitted. “My left side struggled a bit toward the end of the Tour of Utah. The USA Pro Challenge was already a bit better. Tour of Britain had some really hard stages and my left leg fared really well. The last 50k will be a bit of an unknown for me. We did some really hard stages of almost 200k and thinking about doing another 50k after that, you get a sense of what that will feel like. I am not really sure.


“I am more looking forward to connecting with the group of guys, with Howes, Brent [Bookwalter], Tyler [Farrar], Ben King, Lawson Craddock, the guys I would personally hang around with. You can’t say that every year, whether it’s a trade team or especially a national team. At a national team, you get some riders together and usually there is some kind of weird rivalry. Now we have a group that would actually go out to have dinner together. I think that will add a lot to the chemistry of the group. That changes a lot for a team.”


The crash has changed Phinney’s perspective slightly.


“I am calmer and a little more conservative,” he said. “I am able to weigh pros and cons a little bit better. I am more aware of where I am and where I need to be. Being genetically pretty talented, you can get carried away and rely on your personal strength. Coming back and knowing I was not at 100%, I had to be a little bit smarter. I still think that way.”


That new approach could already pay off tomorrow when Phinney has the chance to take a maiden Worlds title in the team time trial – something few would have expected just a few months ago…



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